China May ‘Move Shortly’ on Aid for Europe (Bloomberg)
China may “move shortly” to help Europe resolve its debt crisis by providing an investment of as much as 100 billion euros ($132 billion), said Yuan Gangming, an economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The money would probably go to the European Financial Stability Facility, the euro bailout fund, said Yuan, adding that the forecasts are his own and don’t necessarily represent government plans. Economists from the academy provide policy advice without direct involvement in decisions. Helping Europe is like “hitting two birds with one stone,” Yuan said in an interview in Beijing Feb. 6. The action would have many benefits and few drawbacks, Yuan said.
Concession Smooths Way Toward a Greek Debt Deal (WSJ)
The European Central Bank has made key concessions over its holdings of Greek government bonds, which will contribute to a reduction of the country's debt burden and smooth the path toward a new bailout for the country, said people briefed on Greece's debt-restructuring negotiations. The decision by one of the Greek government's biggest creditors will narrow a gap in Greece's finances, helping pave the way for a debt-restructuring agreement with Greece's private-sector creditors and a new €130 billion ($170 billion) bailout from other euro-zone governments and the International Monetary Fund. But it is still unclear whether Greek politicians, facing public outrage, will accept the tough austerity policies pushed by European authorities and the IMF as the conditions to secure a deal.
Bernanke-Led Economy Shows Critics Clueless (Bloomberg)
More than a year after Republicans from House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas warned that the Fed’s second round of asset purchases risked a sharp acceleration in prices, the surge has failed to materialize. The personal-consumption-expenditures price index rose 2.4 percent for the 12 months ending in December, near the central bank’s 2 percent target...Even though the economy is showing signs of strengthening and inflation appears in check, Republicans Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who also are running for president, have said they wouldn’t keep Bernanke, 58, when his second four-year term as Fed chairman expires on Jan. 31, 2014. Gingrich said in September that Bernanke was “the most inflationary, dangerous and power-centered chairman” in the central bank’s history. “The criticism about the Fed being inflationary is not fact-based,” said Mark Gertler, an economics professor at New York University who has co-written research with Bernanke. “In terms of an inflation record, the facts are the Fed has been as close to impeccable as you can possibly get.”
Spain Plans to Burn Its Bridges to Keep Vacationers on the Job (WSJ)
Tatiana Restrepo has a vacation problem. The Spanish government thinks she takes too many of them. Every year, she, like many Spaniards, strategically deploys paid vacation days as puentes—literally, bridges—to skip town for an extra-long weekend whenever public holidays fall in the middle three days of a week. In that way, she figures that last year she was able to stretch her 36 legally mandated days off into more than 50 days of downtime, including weekends. But now the time-honored tradition is under threat. In one of several measures designed to boost productivity in a sagging economy, Spain's unions and business associations have agreed to suppress three bridges by moving the holidays to Mondays. The two sides, which rarely agree on anything, say the bridges cost the Spanish economy hundreds of millions of euros in lost production, as they result in idle plants and half-empty offices. "It's just horrible," says Ms. Restrepo, a marketer for Rusticae, a network of rural hotels, who every January studies the calendar with her husband to start planning jaunts around bridges.
Fink: Investors Should Be 100% in Equities (Bloomberg)
“I don’t have a view that the world is going to fall apart, so you need to take on more risk,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong today. “You need to overcome all this noise. When you look at dividend returns on equities versus bond yields, to me it’s a pretty easy decision to be heavily in equities.”
Fed Will 'Protect the US' From Europe's Crisis: Bernanke (Reuters)
FYI: "We are in frequent contact with European authorities, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely and take every available step to protect the U.S. financial system and the economy,'' Bernanke told the Senate Budget Committee.
Hotel Workers Would Get Panic Alarm Buttons Under Proposed Contract (City Room)
Nine months after a hotel housekeeper accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French politician, of sexually assaulting her in his suite in Manhattan, hotels across the city have agreed to equip their employees with panic buttons that will summon help immediately. That provision, scheduled to be put in place within a year, is included in a new seven-year labor contract that the Hotel Association of New York City approved last week.
Boston gets Butterfinger candy in honor of Patriots loss to Giants (NYP)
Colorado-based online pawn shop Pawngo.com left 900 pounds of Butterfinger candy bars in Boston's Copley Square on Tuesday to mock the New England Patriots. Patriots receiver Wes Welker dropped a pass late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants, costing his team a shot at the title in a game they lost 21-17. The website left a large placard near the giant pile of 8,000 candy bars that read, "Thank you Wes Welker." Welker also was the likely target of Tom Brady's model wife, Gisele Bundchen, who said Sunday on her way out of the game, “My husband cannot f--king throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time! I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times!”
Facebook's Zuckerberg may face $2 billion tax bill (Fortune)
Accountant nerds are super excited: "I personally have never seen a bill into the billions -- close, but not quite," said Anthony Nitti, a Colorado-based CPA and partner with Withum, Smith and Brown. "I talked to a few buddies of mine at the Big Four accounting firms, and it's something not many people have seen."
Hedge Funds Climbed 0.2% in January on Best Start for Equities in 18 Years (Bloomberg)
Hedge funds gained 0.2 percent in January as equities around the world had the best start in 18 years after U.S. economic growth showed signs of accelerating and European leaders moved closer to a solution for the region’s debt crisis...“We’re extremely pleased with how the portfolio’s been performing in 2012 to date,” said John Bailey, founder and chief executive officer of Spruce Private Investors LLC, whose Stamford, Connecticut-based firm advises investors holding about $3 billion of assets. “Investors will be looking for some measure of value added in hedge funds in 2012.”
Two Years After Spill, BP Profits and Plans (NYT)
On Tuesday, Robert W. Dudley, BP’s chief executive, told reporters in London that BP was “on the right path” as the company reported $7.7 billion in profit for the fourth quarter of 2011, a 38 percent increase from a year earlier. BP said production was up substantially from the previous quarter, and it expected its cash flow by 2014 to surge 50 percent past that of 2011, giving the company the financial strength to invest in exploration and pay even higher dividends.
Salvos Flying In Gupta Case (WSJ)
Federal prosecutors said they are planning to unveil previously undisclosed instances in which former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director Rajat Gupta allegedly shared inside information when the criminal insider-trading case against him goes to trial later this year. Prosecutors announced their intentions at a court hearing in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, as a judge granted defense lawyers' request to delay the trial so they could have more time to prepare. The trial, which had been set to start in April, will now start six weeks later on May 21, U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff said.
Citi Bullish on Retail Banking (WSJ)
By 2014, "people will really see a difference" in improved customer service and product sales at Citibank branches, said the bank's U.S. retail and commercial banking chief, Cecilia Stewart, in recent interviews. "We'll beat all our competitors in productivity and client satisfaction," Ms. Stewart said, while revenue growth will make retail banking "much more profitable than precrisis."
Iowa Police Seek Public's Help In Armed Robbery Of $250 "Mega Masturbator" (The Smoking Gun)
In a bid to capture the armed robber who last month stole a $250 sex doll from an Iowa City adult store, police today released a surveillance photo showing the suspect making off with the item...Before releasing the store surveillance photo, cops pixelated it to obscure explicit images on the box of the “Fuck Me Silly #1” model "mega masturbator." As previously reported, the stolen 20-pound sex doll is described by its manufacturer as “the most realistic piece of ass you ever fucked...Slap that big round ass and listen to the whack...it sounds and feels just like a real ass!” In return for information leading to the man’s arrest, Iowa City Area CrimeStoppers is offering an award of up to $1000.